Fitness and behavior expert Dan Nguyen spoke with ZestNow to explain how mindfulness can make our fitness routines much more effective. “Exercise your mind to make your body fit,” is the important message he discovered. He speciaizes in helping people understand how the mind and body work together.
Seven years ago, Nguyen had his first “aha moment” on how mindfulness improved the effectiveness of exercise. He was working out after New Year’s, when gyms are especially crowded. After a few days, he noticed people stopped coming. They were giving up on healthy habits. He realized it wasn’t the specific exercise or diet that was the problem – it was their mindset. They were not incorporating mindfulness into their routines. “If I can help someone create a mindful mindset, they can sustain it years from now.”
He developed this visualization technique. “When I walk into the gym, I visualize what I’m working on today.” He makes an internal plan of what he wants to accomplish before he starts working out. “Professional athletes do it all the time,” he adds.
Today, cardio machines are often equipped with televisions to distract people when they’re working out, resulting in a lack of focus. When Nguyen is on the elliptical, he closes his eyes and visualizes body fat melting away – which results in a better workout than someone has while reading a book. “People go through the motions without putting much thought into it. Where you focus, that’s where your energy goes.”
Of course, he points out that there are other contributing factors to explain why many people don’t manage to exercise regularly. “Emotional baggage makes it hard to workout. There’s other issues that need to be addressed, as well as limiting beliefs. Focus takes training. People’s minds wander because they think of the past or future, not the present. But we are in charge of the picture in our mind. Once we learn how to do something, it becomes unconscious behavior.”
Consistency is so important. Reminding yourself of the good feeling exercise brings will help. “People procrastinate before working out but when it’s done, their endorphins make them feel better.” It’s important to remember that.
Here are his six tips to apply mindfulness and get better fitness results from workouts:
1. When you’re on a cardio machine, close your eyes for 10-15 seconds and visualize body fat melting away. Notice what it feels like. “You will create a map and a momentum, and you tell your body where you want to go.”
2. During weight lifting, visualize your muscles working and how you want them to look.
3. After working out, close your eyes and squeeze your left wrist with your right hand. This will create a sort of memory of that wonderful post-workout feeling. Whenever you need to get back to that feeling, just squeeze your wrist again to help avoid procrastination.
4. Focus your mind. “Pick three things that you see, hear, or feel in the moment. Your mind will tap into the present and stops the clutter of other thoughts.”
5. Music is a great way to support focus during your workout. “I like to listen to upbeat music,” Dan says. “It becomes an anchor, or a trigger for me to go into that state of focus.”
6. Motivate yourself before you hit the gym. When Nguyen’s alarm goes off, he visualizes himself working out and remembers what it feels like to be finished. He also has an adopted husky/golden retriever dog named Lucky, who keeps him motivated as a walking companion.
Having moved to the US as a skinny child at the age of eight, Nguyen was teased a lot. That is, until a few years later when he was introduced to fast food and was soon called names like “Baby Buddha”. He became determined to change and looked for tools. He was able to shed the extra weight with a combination of listening to Tony Robbins recordings and taking hypnotherapy classes. Twenty years later and about to turn 41, he has that same mindset as well as the same shape.
When we think about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we all know the basics: a balanced diet, regular exercise, and trying to keep stress at bay. However, the concept of mindfulness (and its importance) is often overlooked.
Visit Dan’s website at www.dannguyeninc.com.
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